ROME (CNS) – Pope Francis was scheduled to be released from Rome’s Gemelli hospital June 16 after having abdominal surgery June 7, the Vatican press office said.

His blood tests have been normal, and his recovery has continued smoothly, Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, told reporters June 15. “The health care team that is following Pope Francis confirmed the Holy Father’s discharge” from the hospital was planned for the morning of June 16, he said in a written communique.

Pope Francis visits children, their parents and staff members of the pediatric oncology and neurosurgery ward located on the same floor as his room in Rome’s Gemelli hospital June 15, 2023. The Vatican said the pope was expected to be released from the hospital the next day. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The pope spent part of June 15 visiting children in the pediatric oncology and neurosurgery ward located on the same floor as the private suite of rooms set aside for the pope.

He greeted the young patients, who were among those who had sent him letters, drawings and gifts wishing him a speedy recovery, and he gave each of them a rosary and book, Bruni wrote.

Pope Francis witnessed first-hand “the pain of these children, who carry, together with their mothers and fathers, the suffering of the cross on their shoulders every day,” Bruni wrote.

The pope thanked the staff “for their professionalism and efforts to alleviate others’ suffering with tenderness and humanity as well as medication.”

Earlier in the day, he met with and thanked the medical staff and personnel involved with his surgery June 7 and met with hospital administrators, Bruni said.

The evening before, he added, the pope had dinner with “those who have been assisting him since the day of his hospitalization.”

Pope Francis underwent a three-hour surgery to repair a hernia June 7. The procedure, under general anesthesia, was performed using a surgical mesh to strengthen the repair and prevent the recurrence of a hernia. Surgeons also removed several adhesions or bands of scar tissue that had formed after previous surgeries decades ago, according to Dr. Sergio Alfieri, the chief surgeon operating on the pope.

Vatican News reported that the pope’s audiences have been canceled until June 18 as a “precaution.”